Shore Leave

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Everyone’s come to the beach for repose.
A slack interval
between bouts of immersion
in matters far away from here, and dear
only to others, to those
who can’t or won’t marvel
at skylines, at castles undone
or sculpted without fear
of cloud or ocean;
to those who must control

the view, applying the right pressure
on adversaries
much as a dark confessor
imprints the soul
it cleanses. Even like these,
scattered flecks of shale
report influences
not merely additive but
alchemical. The heat is gone
straight through, wilting a snail

or mollusk, whose armor for once is
eloquent: how life was squeezed out
and forced to lend its signature to stone.
Not so, our brave recumbents
here, sunning and semi-
exposed. If they should feel compelled
to quit their tents
or step outside the circumference
of skewed umbrellas
ever, it’s only because

their gaze is minutely held
by a flash of sea
to which they now saunter.
Not that they would want to
accomplish or abandon
discipline at water’s edge,
but rather for the privilege
of meeting a random
gesture with another kind:
to wage an ill-defined

campaign against the myriad
revolving schemes
that flatten out and gorge themselves on sand.
No one could have planned
it, how the bathers respond
to formlessness by forming into teams
oblivious of the bond
they share with one another and the land;
each traffics alone
in conceits of foam, arrogant and unwearied.